UK

Cameron On Leveson: PM 'Delighted With Real Progress' And Says He Is A 'Friend Of Press Intrusion Victims'

16/03/2013 11:44 GMT | Updated 16/03/2013 11:45 GMT

David Cameron has insisted he is "delighted" with the "real progress" that has been made between the rival parties over their plans for press regulation ahead of a Commons showdown.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and Labour have set out rival proposals for a royal charter establishing an independent self-regulatory body in the wake of Lord Justice Leveson's report.

MPs will choose between the two approaches in a series of votes on Monday.

The Prime Minister insisted the parties were "in a much better place" now.

He said: "I'm delighted by what's happening. I made my move last week to try and unblock the log jam and that seems to be what has happened.

"The other two parties are now in favour of a royal charter - that's good news. They've dropped many of their previous unworkable demands - that's good news. They don't want to have some all singing Leveson law, which I think would have been bad for our country - that's good news.

"So I think we're in a much better place and I'm confident about the future."

Asked about whether he fears his public perception is damaged by his links to media barons such as Rupert Murdoch, Mr Cameron said: "Not at all because I'm the friend of the victims who want a deal in place, who want to see a regulatory system with one million pound fines."

However Gerry McCann said on Friday the prime minister was faced with choice between either supporting newspaper barons or the victims of press intrusion, saying: "We want our politicians to protect us, to stand up for the ordinary victims instead of siding with the wealthy and powerful."

gerry mccann

'We want our politicians to protect us instead of siding with the wealthy and powerful,' said McCann

The father of missing Madeleine McCann added: "On Monday, it comes down to a binary choice: the newspaper barons or the people they abused in search of profit. Leveson or more of the same. It is as simple as that."

However Cameron has hailed a new agreement, saying: "The idea of a law, a great big all singing, all dancing media law that would have been bad for press freedom, bad for individual freedom - that's off the table.

"All that's left on the table is an enshrinement clause. I don't think it's needed but you know this is not the big issue of principal that a Leveson law would have been and I'm delighted with the unblocking of the log jam that we've seen."

Mr Cameron was speaking as he visited children training at Millwall Rugby Club in east London as it was announced that school sport is to get a £150 million extra funding.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have joined forces to publish a "strengthened version" of the Prime Minister's proposed royal charter to establish a new watchdog.

They signalled they still believed legislation was required to underpin an independent self-regulatory body as recommended by the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.

That leaves them firmly at odds with Mr Cameron who believes that would threaten press freedom and make the system unworkable as newspapers would refuse to sign up.

The premier faces a tough battle however, with his Lib Dem deputy and Opposition leader Ed Miliband wooing Tory backers of tougher regulation to their cause.

MPs will vote on Monday on an amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill which would enable the courts to impose "exemplary damages" in libel cases and other civil actions on newspapers which have not signed up to the regulator.

Mr Cameron regards the measure as essential to his scheme by acting as a spur to newspapers to sign up to a regulator system he says would be the toughest ever in Britain.

Allies acknowledged there was a "strong chance" it would be defeated however, as the Tories have no overall majority in Parliament and are opposed to their coalition partners.